Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Benediction

‘When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G.K. Chesterton

As this lovely New Years’ Eve draws to a close and the golden flame of the sun dips below the horizon…

as the shimmering silver of the moon rises into the velvet night sky and the winds of change sweep over the frosted plains…

we wish you all a very beautiful life of gratitude in this new year.

May God bless you in this Advent season.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jupiter: A Haiku

Three moons 'round red eye
Zeus in a Grecian temple
King of the planets.

By Camille Wolaver

Monday, September 28, 2009

She Walks in Beauty Like the Night

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies,

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meets in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellow'd to that tender light

Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impair'd the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress

Or softly lightens o'er her face,

Where thoughts serenely sweet express

How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,––

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent.

Poetry by Lord Byron

Art by William Bouguereau

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Titanic Article

Being at a dinner a couple weeks ago, a framed edition of the Times edition of Tuesday, April 16th, 1912, caught my eye.  As I read through it, I was so shocked by the contents of that tragic day, that I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and quickly dashed down as much as I could before we had to leave.  What follows are my notes:

Direct copy from the beginning of the article:

Tuesday, 16th April 1912


RMS Titanic, the world's greatest liner and the pride of the White Star fleet, hit an iceberg and sank yesterday morning in the greatest disaster at sea.  Over 1600 passengers and crew perished with the ship.

Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable but she disappeared into the black depths of the Atlantic Ocean within hours of being struck.  Lifeboats were launched but only around 800 men, women, and children are believed to have survived.

Those who were able to obtain seats in the lifeboats watched helplessly as the great ship broke in half and plunged to the bottom of the ocean with all its lights blazing and with the band still playing on deck.

Notes from rest of article:

So great was the faith in Titanic's 'unsinkable' qualities that some passengers even had a snowball fight with pieces of ice which the strike had thrown on deck.

The 'Women and Children Only' rule was soon ignored and skirmishes began as some male passengers tried to fight their way onto the boats.  One lady had her ribs dislocated when three men jumped into her lifeboat as it was being lowered.  One man swam in the icy water after a lifeboat only to have an officer threaten to shoot him if he boarded.

Babies and children were wrapped in towels and sheets and thrown to safety to the women already in the boats.  One older boy who tried to get onto one of the boats concealed in his mother's skirts was sent back with the order to 'Be a man'.  He is believed to have died.  

The lifeboats were not filled efficiently in the chaos.  Third class passengers were locked below in order that the first class women could board first, but they rioted and broke through and chaos broke out.

1500 people died.  As she went down with a tremendous roar, the decks were thronged with praying and sobbing passengers and the band was still playing the Episcopal hymn Autumn, or Nearer my God to Thee, as Titanic sank below the waves.  All ships' senior officers died.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Blessings of Yahweh Sabaoth

It is El Shaddai who blesses you…

blessings of heaven above…

blessings of the deep lying below…

blessings of the breasts and womb…

blessings of the grain…

and flowers…

blessings of the eternal mountains…

bounty of the everlasting hills…

may they descend on Joseph's head, on the crown of the one dedicated from among his brothers.

Genesis 49:25-29

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thoughts on the Euangelios

The incarnation shocked humanity. Never before in the history of religion had divinity shrunk to infancy. The magic of the event terrified the world. The God of the universe who created woman, impregnated a common peasant girl and grew from embryo to infant in the womb that He had molded with His own hands. The girl who carried Yahweh in her belly, who was scoffed and mocked by the world of the time and treated as a sinner and outcast, journeyed to Jerusalem with her faithful husband, and, being refused even by the country inn, was forced to birth the Son of God underground. 'In the riddle of Bethlehem it was heaven that was under the earth,' Chesterton states. The Voice of Elohim became the most vulnerable creature in our world––a new-born baby, crying in the arms of a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old girl, whose tiny arms couldn't reach up to touch the noses of the cattle that He had spoken into existence. Yahweh came to earth, and suddenly the family that God had instituted in the beginning was turned upside down, for the mother and father became the children of their Son, and their son was their Father and Creator. And they called His name Jesus.

Jesus' life was hounded from the beginning. After being anointed by the Magi, confirmed by Anna and Simeon, praised by the angels, and worshipped by the shepherds, Joseph, following the command of God, the father of his adopted child, escaped to Egypt with the precious mother and baby to escape Herod's wrath. The age-old war of the demons against children asserted itself once more in a mad effort to kill the Child, but was thwarted by a simple carpenter's faithfulness to God.

Jesus grew up, and threw off the stagnant and sinful customs of the time. Though He was the most intelligent and promising students in the educational system, and wanted as a disciple by the leading rabbis of the day, He rejected the complacency and legalism of the priests and stayed at home to learn the trade of a simple carpenter until His time came. And then the Son of God asserted Himself.

He gathered the outcasts to Himself. He insulted the leading figures of the day. He ransacked the false religion pervading the Temple. He forgave the sins of people who faithed in His Father. He called Himself the ancestor of Abraham. He healed the sick. He outsmarted the scribes. He was faithful to His Father. He loved purely. He gave freely. He professed to be the Son of God. He spoke words of truth that were shocking to the darkness of that time, and yet conquered the barbarian sinfulness of the time, and have forever resurrected throughout history, and are still living and speaking today. For they are words of universal and timeless truth. The world will try to take some of Him and leave the rest, but He was the Man who encompassed all Truth, all Holiness, all Power, all Righteousness, all Faithfulness, all Love.

There have been many philosophers in the history of this world, but the smarter they were the more they knew that they were not a god. Yet Jesus spoke words of intelligence and verity, and He proclaimed Himself to be God. He was a Man directly distinct from the sophists and philosophers of His time, a Man who had nothing to do with the wild and distorted mythologies and hero-worship of the time. And yet He complemented both sides. He was a philosopher, He was a hero, His life was a Story, but a true one. He vanquished the lies of the World, and rose up as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

His creed spread like wildfire throughout the world, and the only people groups that would have none of Him were the Middle-Eastern Muslims and the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia. And these are the two countries that are living examples of stagnancy. The West has blossomed, grown, died, and resurrected as the Flower of Christendom, but Asia and the Middle-East are too old to die.

In fact, the modern example of the ancient war between mythology and philosophy are the creeds of Asia. Their worship is why Asia is infirm, stale, and oppressed, whereas the West is equally as historical, but has experienced the resurrection of life that is following Christ. For Christianity is the only religion that is the key which fits the questions of this world. It is Life, and it is like life. It embraces life when Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Fatalism, Optimism, Mythology, and Atheism all refuse to be intellectually honest and choose to strive to negate certain aspects of life in order to hold on to their mistaken ideals. Christianity bridges all these religions because it is a story and it is a true story. It is the freedom that comes from the free-will which is the essence of a story, the truth which is the longing of our intellects, and the divine supremacy of God which satisfies the yearning in our soul to know our Creator.

Islam, too, is a stagnant religion. Islam and Christianity are similar in the fact that they are the only monotheistic religions stemming from Abraham, but in very little else. For where Islam worships a solitary and therefore self-centered and uncharitable god, without even the ability to love because he is lonely, Christianity worships the Triune God. He is the God that is the embodiment of the Family. He is the essence of power, and yet is wholly selfless because the Son, the Father, and the Holy Ghost are forever loving each other and the world in Sacred Communion.

For just as the mythology and philosophy in Asia is too tolerant to die, and the selfishness and hate of Islam is too bitter to die, Christianity is continually experiencing rebirth. Over and over again, the Faith has been so diluted as to die, but it has always risen again in new power at the pivotal moment. We worship the God who rose from the grave, and who has given us the power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

El Shaddai

'It is El Shaddai who blesses you:

blessings of heaven above,

blessings of the deep lying below,

blessings of the breasts and womb,

blessings of the grain and flowers,

blessings of the eternal mountains,

bounty of the everlasting hills––

may they descend on Joseph's head,

on the crown of the one dedicated from among his brothers.' - Genesis 49:25-26

The bottle changed society.  

Billy Sunday raved at the increase of alcoholism in the early 20th century.  He toured throughout the nation, he preached from every pulpit and stage available, he published in every newspaper, he proclaimed his beliefs, and ultimately succeeded in stopping alcoholism for a season.  And yet there was no opposition when 1950 began, and another sort of bottle came to the forefront.

Bottle-feeding had been in some fashion seen since the Middle Ages.  It was not very common.  The limited and unsterile supplies available made bottle-feeding a very arduous task, causing many babies' deaths from the unclean effects of horn bottles and dried cow teats.  For this very reason the practice was unpopular.  Even when the rubber nipple was invented in the mid 19th century, the contraption was hardly used because of the pungent smell of the black India rubber.  

It was not until the 1950s, when Pyrex and soft rubber were first introduced, that Dr. Spock published his famous manual on baby and child care, and, in an instant, 80% of all women across the US had embraced the progressive model––bottle-feeding.  The fad was quite in keeping with the times.  Between processed cheeses, new inflammatory polyester combinations for fabrics, canned and powdered foods, preservatives to give food a longer shelf-life, immunizations, birth-control, and Caeserean Sections, the '50s were a time of great modernization.  How is it that, though every one of these fads have been proved as extremely unhealthy and risky life-style choices, bottle-feeding has not been paired with them?

Today it is known that breastmilk holds every nutritional ingredient that a baby needs for optimal growth.  It is the perfect temperature, it is clean, and it is extremely beneficial for the mother.  When a mother breastfeeds her baby she is protected from osteoporosis, breast cancer, and ovarian cancers.  It releases hormones that reduce stress, allows her to bond with her baby, produces estrogen, and gives her femininity and gentleness.  It is even better for her baby.  Breastmilk jump-starts a baby's immune system, builds strong bones, reduces the risk of developing diabetes, prevents food allergies, protects against heart-disease, cancer, obesity, asthma, unhealthy teeth, Multiple Sclerosis, ear infections, and even weak kissing ability.  Breastfed infants have higher IQs than bottle-fed infants and they grow up to be more independent and capable.  Most importantly, breast-feeding creates a child that not only holds an intense bond with his mother, but easily bonds with other people and is more capable of loving.

Yet the majority of new mothers are told to nurse their babies for a couple weeks and then give them a contraption made of Pyrex, plastic, and rubber.  To put in their babies' new and fresh bodies a formula that is not only extremely expensive, but is made up of additives, preservatives, chemicals that are harmful to the baby's health, and vitamins and minerals that the baby is not even capable of digesting.  The great health and spiritual benefits of the natural, divine way of baby growth is completely overlooked.

Thus we see, in the '50s, the start of a new family model that had never been known before.  Safe sex was the safe thing.  The human race was discouraged from bearing too much new life.  The fruit of the womb, the procreation of souls, was suppressed through the newly legalized birth-control, forgetting the fact that the pill aborts the sperm and egg after they have joined together to create the human embryo, is catastrophic for the health of the woman, and is the cause of many defects in children today.  The government became more influential, and, in their widened power, decided to take on more and more of a child's development, cheating the mother and father out of their God-given responsibilities.  Mothers were encouraged, if they were so selfish as to bear a child, to let the doctors get the baby out of her through a surgical procedure that would not only be extremely unhealthy for her and the baby, but would cheat her out of the toil and labor that is the birth of true womanhood and spiritual maturity.  The mother was supposed to have only one month in which to bond with her baby, and then she must put her baby on the bottle, re-enter the work-force, and give her job to an impartial worker in a day-care.  At four-years-old the child would be sent off to pre-school, and for twenty thousand, one hundred sixty hours of the rest of their childhood, the mother's responsibility would be taken off her hands and the government would indoctrinate her child in the way that they pleased.

This was the new model of family.  Even the terms for children were changed, and the words 'kid' and 'teenager' became widely used.  Children, not experiencing any of the divine bonding instruments in infancy, were raised in schools with a sterile atmosphere, and soon found themselves to be more influenced by their peers and teachers than by their parents and siblings.  At thirteen, the child began to act strangely.  They rebelled against their parents.  They flocked with their friends from school.  They adopted all sorts of habits that were extremely unhealthy psychologically and physically.  

Doctors and psychologists pronounced this a natural phenomena, forgetting the fact that for thousands of years the 'teenager' psyche had never even been heard of––that the term 'teenager' had been non-existent till very recent years.  In every culture of ancient times, from the East to the West, the child became an adult at twelve and thirteen, the time when, scientifically, the brain changes, the child's learning fashion takes on the form of an adult's, sexual maturation begins, and they believe the world-view that, according to statistics, they will die believing.  Rebellion had been scathingly rejected in these cultures.  In ancient Judaism it was a sin punishable by stoning.  Yet these facts were forgotten, and parents were, instead, told to let their children 'go their own path.'  Yet in third-world countries, where these medical habits were mostly unheard of, children from thirteen to nineteen were the best workers, the best helpers, and were generally close to their parents, grandparents, and siblings.

The wealth of the nation was such that parents, after having been told to step out of their children's way, were expected to send their children to college.  It was a very new phenomenon.  Never before had both women and men received such an education.  They were shipped off to universities where socialist, communist professors taught them to believe all the doctrines their fathers had spilled blood to purge from the world in the last decade, and in those government institutions sins were introduced through the close association of their peers that had formerly been only known in the very darkest, most secret of places.

And thus the '60s ensued.  We have seen what the '60s brought forth, when the hippies reigned, with their free sex and free drugs that were supposed to bring peace to the world, and yet brought nothing but riots and sexually transmitted diseases.  We see and taste the fruit in our leaders, our government, and our culture.  We know that our families are broken, that our government is weak and oppressive, that our education is ungodly, that the Church has melded in with the World, that every new generation becomes more and more engulfed in sin, and that we have accepted these things as the norm.  Yet God would have us taste and see that His ways are good––He would have us know life, and know it more abundantly.  He is El Shaddai, which, in Hebrew, means the God of the Breast.

Photo by Ann Geddes

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight

by Rose Hartwick Thorpe (1850-1939)

Slowly England's sun was setting oe'r the hilltops far away,
Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad day;
And its last rays kissed the forehead of a man and maiden fair,--
He with steps so slow and weary; she with sunny, floating hair;
He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, she, with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur, "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

"Sexton," Bessie's white lips faltered, pointing to the prison old,
With its walls tall and gloomy, moss-grown walls dark, damp and cold,--
"I've a lover in the prison, doomed this very night to die
At the ringing of the curfew, and no earthly help is nigh.
Cromwell will not come till sunset;" and her lips grew strangely white,
As she spoke in husky whispers, "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

"Bessie," calmly spoke the sexton (every word pierced her young heart
Like a gleaming death-winged arrow, like a deadly poisoned dart),
"Long, long years I've rung the curfew from that gloomy, shadowed tower;
Every evening, just at sunset, it has tolled the twilight hour.
I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just and right:
Now I'm old, I will not miss it. Curfew bell must ring to-night!"

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
"At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must "die.
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. "Curfew must not ring to-night!"

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he'd trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, Where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, On which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

She has reached the topmost ladder, o'er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; 'tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

Out she swung,-- far out. The city Seemed a speck of light below,--
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, As the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil's funeral knell.
"Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart's wild throbbing: "Curfew shall not ring tonight!"

It was o'er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

O'er the distant hills comes Cromwell. Bessie sees him; and her brow,
Lately white with sickening horror, has no anxious traces now.
At his feet she tells her story, shows her hands, all bruised and torn;
And her sweet young face, still hagggard, with the anguish it had worn,
Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light.
"Go! your lover lives," said Cromwell. "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"

Wide they flung the massive portals, led the prisoner forth to die,
All his bright young life before him. Neath the darkening English sky,
Bessie came, with flying footsteps, eyes aglow with lovelight sweet;
Kneeling on the turf beside him, laid his pardon at his feet.
In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, "Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring to-night."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Legacy of Saint Valentine

Valentine's Day has been sadly hyped in our post-modern culture, and we have, as the Israelites before us, forgotten the heritage that once made the holiday––or holy-day––worth celebrating.

Saint Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius Gothicus, emperor of Rome.  He was known for aiding the persecuted Christians of that time, and especially for marrying Christian men and women according to the standards of their faith, rather than the empty pagan practices common in Roman weddings  Helping Christians at the time was considered criminal, and the saint was arrested and imprisoned on being caught in the act of initiating a Christian wedding.  Claudius was amused by this prisoner and his crime, until St. Valentine refused to renounce Christ and then attempted to convert him, on which outrage the emperor condemned the priest to death.  After being beaten with sticks and then stoned, he was sent off to the Flaminian Gate to be beheaded.  Before the final stroke, St. Valentine healed the sight and hearing of the jailer's daughter. He was then decapitated outside of the gate.

The current legends of St. Valentine were created in the fourteenth century by Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries, and traditions like signing heart-shaped letters 'from your Valentine' were started in the late Middle Ages.  It was then that February 14 first became a celebration of romantic love.  

Let us throw aside the antics of Rome, as Chesterton termed it, and meditate on the God who is Love, and created the Love that dwelled inside of St. Valentine and was so strong and selfless that it sought to bless and heal the very ones who persecuted him.  Let us pray that such strength of heart may also be cultivated in our own souls.  

A happy St. Valentine's Day to you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Maritime Adventure: Day Four

I awoke early to the silence of a warm Sabbath morning out at sea.  The boat was on the move again, retracing the ocean path that we had sketched out over the formless deep, and every hour the tropic conditions seemed to grow colder.  I dressed quickly in my Sunday best, and then awoke Daddy, as he had wanted to see the sunrise.

We walked up to the next-to-highest deck, where we stood against the railing along with several other viewers, and looked out at the sea.  It was rather early, but the sky itself was breathtaking, with its periwinkle timbre and innate peacefulness.  Somehow seeing that much sky makes one feel small and insignificant, even while it fills you with inward quiet.  Be still, and know that I am God.  There is no better place to be still then in the magic of the wind and the salt-water and the sky all melding together into the majestic union of God's creation.  As we watched, the sun began to shine its crimson glory into the pearly clouds of the East, building up slowly to the climax when the tip of its fiery arc appeared over the earth and seemed to race past the shimmering horizon and into the great blue heavens.  Beautiful.

When the sun was completely risen Daddy and I returned to the comparatively dark and musty inner rooms, and joined the others in preparing for the church services.  Arriving at eight o'clock in the belly of the boat, we sound-checked and had a very enjoyable time chatting with David Nasser, the speaker of the morning.  He told us a little bit about his life as a refugee from Iran, and the amazing occurrences of his escape from that country.  I was personally quite dumb-founded by the very swash-buckling nature of it all.  Such miracles and adventure and peril are quite unheard of in our extremely blessed, free nation, and when tidings of the oppression and terrific events in the rest of the world always comes as a shock.

The services were so very blessed by God's spirit, and we all felt a quickening as we sang the profound lyrics of the old hymns and psalms and heard David Nasser's penetrating message on contentment and the gospel.  He shared the story behind the writer of the hymn, 'It Is Well With My Soul'.  Horatio Spafford experienced two major traumas in quick succession, one, the Chicago fire of the Autumn of 1871, in which he was ruined financially, and then, shortly thereafter, his four daughters were killed in a shipwreck out to sea.  His wife, Anna, was the lone survivor, and sent him a telegram with the two words, "Saved alone."  Spafford retraced the sea passage to the place where his daughters had drowned, and there, facing the seeming ruin of everything that he had built and held dear in his life, he wrote the deep-seated sapience of those amazing verses.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

That evening, we all gathered together on the deck of the ship to watch the last sunset of our journey across the ocean.  The sun had accrued power in his day's work, and burnt fervently in the golden dusk of the sky.  We all shielded our sensitive eyes as it slowly dropped toward the glassy mirror below it.  I wondered if, before that fatal bite at the dawn of time, our bodies would have been powerful enough to take the light of a sun ten times the brilliance I saw.  I looked down into the sea to ease the strain in my ocular engines, and wondered if there were mermen and selkies beneath me looking up at the same sunset, and arming their underwater kingdoms to guard against the sea-monsters that pervade that midnight murkiness.  I often wonder what makes us so sure of ourselves as to trump the beliefs of the millions of intelligent, sane human beings who lived before us, and decide to discredit their records.  You must think that if bald eagles, giant pandas, and the tigers of Asia are all going extinct in our generation, how many creatures have gone extinct in the course of the seventeen thousand years in the journey of this world?  Such things are easy to muse about surrounded by the resplendence of God's creativity.

And that's the end of my maritime adventure!  I hope you've enjoyed it!


by Sir Walter Scott

Oh! young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none.
He rode all unarmed and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He stayed not for brake and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none,a
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love and a dastard in war
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,
For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,
‘Oh! come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?’

‘I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied;
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’

The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup,
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand ere her mother could bar,
‘Now tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whispered ‘’Twere better by far
To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’

One touch to her hand and one word in her ear,
When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
‘She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ’mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Fosters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Maritime Adventure: Day Three

God delights in routine.  The sunrise happens every morning not because God ran out of ideas, but because the sun so glories in its rising that he does it again and again, as a child never tires of seeing something especially interesting done once more.  Therefore, this morning, I did almost the exact same thing that I had done the previous morning.  After a nourishing devotional time on our room's deck, staring off into the great black of the sea, I ran against the wind on the second-to-top deck outside, and then I carried an exercise mat outside and did refreshing Pilates exercises in the salty breeze.  Very aesthetically pleasing, I must say.  We all dressed in our most island-ish clothes, all us girls trying to compete for the most Grace Kelly outfit, and, when finished, we leaned out of our cabin to watch as the little English province came into view.  


Grand Turk Island.  It was very small, and almost wholly destroyed by Hurricane Ike, but my heart palpitated with expectation as I realized that I was stepping for the first time on foreign soil.  How many times I've read the phrase in books I know not, but there is something so romantic about seeing the world!  Secretly I made plans to drag somebody on a mad exploring expedition through the sand-hills and wild palm trees.  I've always prided myself on being practical.

Once the boat docked, we made our way through the three thousand people trying to get off at the same time, and walked out onto the great concrete walkway bridging the waters to the beach.  It was very hot, and I donned my sunglasses and a light cotton shawl to protect my very sensitive Irish skin and eyes from the tropical glare of the sun.  Once on dry land, we fought our dizziness (especially bad when standing on tile or any other very flat surface) and the instinct to stand with our feet wide apart for more effective balancing.  We younger kids stopped at a fresh fruit smoothie shop, where a beautiful, strong-boned woman with a dark, rich complexion and a lovely accent served us drinks made of mango and papaya and coconut and other island fruits.  I was afraid I looked very tourist-y to her, but hey, you don't get to be a tourist every day!  :)

Gretchen and I departed from the rest of our group to tour the jewelry shops, and soon had found some beautiful, native presents and shell-and-fresh-water-pearl earrings for ourselves and some others, and, having made our purchases, we all made our way to the beach.  I had never before seen such a lovely beach.  The sand was very clean and white, the water a glittering blue so clear one could see to the ocean floor even when one couldn't touch.  We all ate a splendid luncheon while chatting with other newly-made acquaintances, and then, donning our bathing suits, rushed into the waters.  Or rather, approached the salty expanse warily, stuck a toe into the very edge, and jumped back screaming because it was so cold!  Somehow the heat of the day didn't affect the ocean very readily.  Jeremiah and his friends, in the natural childhood immunity, were already soaking wet and playing out in the water, but we adults were having a rather painful time of it.  Finally, seeing Annie, Scott, and Gretchen brave the frigid deep, I forced myself to plunge under the still liquid and came up shivering and gasping for air.  

We all swam a bit, trying to get our blood pumping enough to warm us, but I could not get warm.  Salt-water got into my eyes, making them sting, and, when nobody could think of anything to do, I decided I had had enough of the tropics (I know, I know, quite contemptible, I must say!) and left the beach with Mama and Daddy.  We had a very pleasant walk and shop-sifting, but unfortunately the island wasn't much to explore, being mostly wreckage from the hurricane, and my parents are rather too old for exploring, and so soon I was carried back off to the boat.  Daddy and I got some frozen yogurt cones and sat and looked out at the ocean from the boat and had a splendid time, however.

In an hour or so everyone returned, with stories about what they had seen while snorkling, and, after another very delectable supper and melting chocolate cake to aid us in gaining those healthy constitutions and rosy cheeks that Grandma loves so much in her grandchildren, we all played a game of Scrabble and had a wonderful time.  I won the game, because of the word WINDLOG down over a couple triple word and double letter scores.  Unfortunately for the rest of the players, nobody realized till afterward that windlog should be hyphenated…including me!  I proclaim my innocence!  :)

Once it was dark we all journeyed down a back path to the very front of the boat, where there was a deck that no one knew about.  There were no lights on, and so we stood out on the very brink of the ship, the wind so forceful it was difficult to stand upright, our hair blowing itself into tangles, and our eyes gazing in rapture at the constellations above us.  I had never seen so many stars.  Planets and comets and formations and clusters, all dancing and burning in the great black deep above, which mirrored the great black deep below.  The wind strummed the wires stretching above us in the mast, creating a dissonant and mysteriously beautiful hum that increased into a shrill scream as the wind increased, and ran back down the scale to a throaty tone when the wind softened.  Our friend Jill said she had heard of a cruise where a woman murdered her husband by pushing him off the side of the boat in the dark.  A chill quivered down my spine, and my eyes moved from the stars above to the murky waves below, and imagined the cold impact and the slither of sharks against my ankles.  

Soon afterwards we all went back inside to electric warmth and fluorescent lights, all of us feeling rather creepy…especially after Jill's husband, David, told us all he had seen another person out there with us––a shadowy woman with long black tresses and empty eyes that stared into the infinite sea and sky, her whole being yearning for the peace that would not come till she was avenged…  Thankfully I'm not Nancy Drew.  Wouldn't you hate to be a person who seems to get picked to solve all the world's mysteries?  :) 

And that's day three of our maritime adventure!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Maritime Adventure; Day Two

I awoke in the dark of the early morning with an eery feeling at my heart after a frightening dream of a mystery where I was forced unwillingly into the role of a heroine.  My eyes became used to the darkness and the silver light of the cold moon sifting through the window pane.  My ears hearkened to the lapping of the waves against the boat, cradling my senses in the warmth and safety of the bedclothes.  Just on the brink of dozing off once more, I jolted myself awake by throwing off the sheets and, pulling on my robe for warmth, I took my Bible and a reading light and stepped out on deck.

Lifting my face to the softness in the sky, I felt the wind kiss me as it blew by.  The heavens were periwinkle and grey, mundane and beautiful, and the sun had not yet risen over the expanse of the dark, quiet sea.

Opening my Bible, I sat down in a chair and devoted myself to reading and prayer.  Once finished and my soul refreshed, I stepped back inside and shook my younger sister awake.

"Gretchen!  Gretchen!  You've got to get up!"

Gretchen moans.

"Come on, Gretchen!  You know Daddy won't let me go exercise alone!"

"Get one of the boys to go with you," she says, turning her face toward the wall.

"You know they won't come!  They're probably all still asleep.  Come on, don't be selfish!"

Gretchen's better half prevailed, and, grumbling to herself, she got out of bed and we both pulled on our tennis shoes and sweats and went out into the hall.  We felt our adrenaline start pumping as we took the stairs two at a time and ran out of the glass doors into the dance of the ocean wind.  It blew my hair into my face, and I struggled to get my hoodie over my head and tie it firmly beneath my chin.

The boat was quiet under the quickly-fading stars, and the only sound to be heard was the breeze whistling in the ropes overhead and the waves rushing by.  Gretchen and I climbed up to the lap deck, and began running around the lap, letting the wind blow vigor into us.  We conquered one lap.

"Stop!  Stop!"  Gretchen said, puffing and huffing heavily.  "I can't go on.  It's too hard."

I impatiently jogged in place.  "You are ridiculous.  Don't be a sissy-pate!"

"I'm serious.  I'm not used to this sort of thing!"

An extremely fit army soldier passed us running at a very steady and altogether marvelous pace, and yelled over his shoulder, "Run eight minutes, walk two minutes––that's the way to do it!"

We smiled, and I turned back to Gretchen.  "Just keep on going.  You'll get used to it."

So Gretchen and I ran on, I reveling in the dark expanse of sea all around me, and wondered what sunken kingdoms we were sailing over.

Halfway through the lap.

"Stop!  Camille, I really can't go on.  My throat is burning from this wind.  I'll go sit on deck and read my Bible till you're done.  Go ahead without me.  Really."  She hobbled way, slightly doubled over and panting.  

I continued to run.  As time went by and six thirty struck other exercise buffs came to the lap deck and began to jog.  We formed left and right traffic lanes, and I enjoyed the fellowship even as I wondered at the great speed of the genuine runners, running two laps to every one of mine.

About six forty-five I turned the corner and was awe-inspired by the appearance of a glorious sun rising over the still horizon of the waters.  I wondered, as I ran round and round and came upon the miracle again and again, at the thought that the same sun I looked upon was the sun that Adam and Eve had looked upon, that had risen over Abraham on his journey to Canaan, which David wrote about in his poetry, and Jesus saw when He lifted His eyes to the Heavenlies to pray.  I marveled at its brightness, and how it alone warmed our entire planet and gave us light to see by, gave us the beauty and colors that decorate the earth so splendidly.  All from the golden disc hung in the blue sky.

At three miles I joined Gretchen, Annie, and Scott on the lower deck, where they had been observing the sunrise as well, and within an hour we had all dressed and met the family in the restaurant below deck for a yummy breakfast.  

After breakfast, Alex, Benjamin, Gretchen, and I went back on deck in the hot late-morning sun, with the wind blowing knots in my hair and no hair-band to constrain it.  Our friend David showed us how to play the shuffle-board game chalked on the boards, and soon Gretchen and I were pleasantly observing the boys trying to scoot the disc from one goal to the other.  I remembered pictures of Grace Kelly playing this very game, and wished I had a chiffon scarf, glossy sunglasses, and red lips like she did.  

Gretchen and I took turns with it for a while, but, as our frail, feminine muscles couldn't quite manage to scoot the disc more than two feet, the boys soon gave us leave to step forward a great deal from the line, so that we could actually score something.  Gretchen and Benjamin won, unfortunately, as Alex's muscles were too much for the poor disc, which generally shot completely away from the goal and off into the outfields.  

Once we were finished, we went up on top deck, where there was a put-put ring and several children playing in the turf.  The wind majestically tore at us, making Gretchen and I hold on to our shawls lest they go flying off to smother some poor fish in the wide ocean.  The deck was decorated in ship-wreck garb (yes, quite what one would like to dwell on in one's first cross-ocean experience), and Gretchen and I took turns struggling against the wind onto a false ship bow, letting our shawls float behind us, and crying, "I'm the queen of the world!"  Unfortunately the wind got a bit angry at this complacency, and, after almost keeling backwards in its wrathful force, Gretchen and I desisted.

After lunch the whole band gathered in the very belly of the ship, where our performance that night was to be held, and had our soundcheck.  The sound-people were very helpful in our slight seasickness, as the stage lurched so much that my harp kept on falling away from my shoulder and I could hardly keep my eyes on the right strings as my hands searched for the ever-moving strings to pluck.  Benjamin was forced to replace his uneven stool for an even one, because it rocked back and forth so much.  Annie, Alex, and Gretchen had some very serious concerns as to jumping while playing, lest the floorboards drift away from them.  

We partook of a delicious, gourmet supper, and then all dressed for the concert.  Gretchen and Alex finished early and went to hear Phil Wickham and Third Day perform, which they very much enjoyed, and then, at eight-thirty or so, we all gathered in the Palladium for a splendid concert.  There were some rather dizzy spots, but otherwise our legs showed themselves dependable, and we loved learning the art of balancing while playing our instruments.  Such an interesting feat to experience what one experienced at the age of two.  

After a delightful hour with a wonderful audience, we packed up our instruments, and Benjamin and I, who are generally the ones of the family who can't keep our eyes open past ten o'clock, went promptly to bed while the others went to hear other performers and drink coffee (decaf, of course!) with old and new friends.

And thus ends day two of our voyage.